The Los Angeles Dodgers beat the Oakland Athletics to clinch their eighth consecutive NL West division title. Who the Dodgers will face in the newly implemented Wild Card Series will likely not be determined until Sunday since several teams remain in contention for the final Wild Card spot.
“To be crowned NL West champs again, it’s a credit to everybody in that clubhouse and in the organization,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said in a postgame interview Wednesday. “It’s something that a lot of people expect but it should never be taken for granted… The consistency that we put forth every year is a credit to the entire organization. I’m proud of these guys.”
Ahead of the 2020 postseason, here’s a look at the Dodgers' strengths and weaknesses heading into the postseason.
The Dodgers boast a powerful lineup. They currently lead the MLB with 107 home runs, are first in the majors in Exit Velocity (89.8 mph) and hard hit percentage (42.9%) and are second in isolated power (ISO) with a mark of 0.221.
The Dodgers are also among the best at successfully launching the ball to maximize their run-scoring potential. Making quality contact at an optimal launch angle generally leads to more offensive success, and the Dodgers are among the best in baseball in this area. Their fly ball percentage of 39.4 is first in the National League and their barrel percentage of 10.1 is second among MLB teams.
Not only do the Dodgers exhibit enormous offensive potential, but they are able to lay off of bad pitches. So far this season, the Dodgers swung at 26.3% of pitches outside the strike zone, the lowest mark in the MLB.
This discipline helps increase the Dodgers overall offensive prowess. Currently the Dodgers are leading all teams in weighted runs created plus (wRC+) for counts with at least two balls. Weighted runs created plus is a metric that quantifies a player’s total offensive value, and then is scaled to a league average of 100. Their mark of 153 is significantly higher than the second highest mark of 145 in such counts.
In 2020, Dodgers relievers posted the second best earned run average (ERA) and fielding independent pitching (FIP) mark in the MLB. By wins above replacement (WAR), Dodgers relievers are also first in the NL and fourth overall. Wins above replacement indicates a player’s value relative to what a theoretical replacement would be able to produce.
Additionally, Dodgers relievers currently possess the lowest barrel percentage in baseball with a mark of 3.7%, which is significantly lower than the next lowest mark of 5.4%. The bullpen also posted the lowest hard hit percentage in the National League.
In 2020, Dodgers hitters were either above average or close to average against all pitch types except changeups. Against changeups, however, they rank 22nd in baseball with 6.7 runs below average, showing that they may have a slight weakness against changeups.
While this may not significantly affect their performance in the playoffs, pitchers could target this weakness and exploit it over a short series by throwing lots of changeups.
Currently, the Dodgers' 3.25 ERA is the lowest among starting pitchers in the NL. However, other metrics suggest that the Dodgers may have been benefiting from luck.
For example, the fielding independent pitching statistic (FIP) is more indicative of true pitcher performance since it is based on plays independent of the defense (i.e. strikeouts, walks and home runs). By FIP, Dodgers starting pitchers as a collective are currently ninth in all of baseball with 4.16. A higher FIP is bad, and FIP can be understood on a similar scale as ERA. In fact, the Dodgers possess the highest difference between FIP and ERA in all of baseball, showing that their ERA is likely impacted by good luck.
While the Dodgers defense may be partially responsible for this phenomenon, luck is also likely involved. Dodgers starting pitchers have allowed the lowest batting average on balls in play (BABIP) in baseball and possess the highest left-on-base percentage (LOB%) in the NL, both of which are largely dependent on luck.
The Dodgers' many strengths and relatively few weaknesses should bode well for their postseason play come September 30.
All statistics for this article are provided by Fangraphs.com.